In the experiment, they asked 35 male students to rate how likely they were to find a certain act (spanking, for example) to be sexually stimulating, but under two different scenarios; one was during a routine moment of one’s day, while the other occurred when the subject was at home while enjoying “self-gratification” (for lack of a better term). What the researchers found was that during the light of day, the average rating was 35%; however, when the survey was completed at home, the average rating jumped to 52%.
The purpose of this story is to show that it’s hard to predict how we will act under pressure, in the "heat of the moment"; in the markets, that usually means when the sky is falling. Because of this bias, many will fail to act rationally, resulting in a rare opportunity for intelligent investors; in the words of Sir John Templeton, “The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy”.
This brings me to a bit of history that was created on Thursday: Procter & Gamble (PG), the world’s largest consumer products company, issued $1 billion in 10 year bonds at 2.3% this week, the lowest rate ever for 10-year corporate bonds according to Bloomberg. William Larkin, a fixed-income money manager at Cabot Money Management in Massachusetts was quoted in the article as saying, "This is free money.”
For investors buying this offering, they are happily entering into what appears to be a long term disaster; with the CPI running around 3%, they are essentially locking themselves in for a decade of negative real returns (assuming inflation levels remain unchanged). Without looking any further than P&G’s equity, they are also passing up on a company that increased its dividend 9.5% annually for the past half century, and currently yields more than 100 basis points than the fixed rate bond.
In my mind, there is no justification for scooping up 10-year fixed rate bonds, especially when viewed relative to the other ways one can currently build an equity portfolio to generate income and still replicate the benefits (particularly in a state of deflation) generated in a fixed income strategy.
There have been eight recessions (by definition) since 1950, and none of them managed to slow the growth of Procter & Gamble’s first class innovation and products; the same can be said for PepsiCo (PEP), Coca-Cola (KO), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Nestle (NSRGY), among many others. This time isn’t different, even though it may feel as such in the heat of the moment.
About the author:I'm a value investor, with a focus on patience; I look to buy great companies that are suffering from short term issues, and hope to load up when these opportunities present themselves. As this would suggest, I run a fairly concentrated portfolio by most standards, usually with 8-10 names; from the perspective of a businessman rather than a market participant / stock trader, I believe this is more than sufficient diversification.
I hope to own a collection of great businesses; to ever sell one, I would demand a substantial premium to the average market valuation due to what I believe are the understated benefits to the long term investor of superior fundamentals and time on intrinsic value. I don't have a target when I purchase a stock; my goal is to replicate the underlying returns of the business in question - which if I've done my job properly, should be very attractive over a period of many years.